Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Quarry Questions

Martin Marietta Hwy 27

Recent travelers along Highway 27, between Lions Camp and Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, observed the incremental crafting of a beautiful, although mysterious, limestone and wrought iron fence. The impressive pillars provide a boundary between the highway right-of-way and an open field to the south.

The barrier clearly signals a new tenant for the acreage. Possibilities and speculation abound. Will there be a school, park, shopping center, perhaps a housing development? What will fit into the plot’s surrounding community of single-family dwellings, a high school, and the Guadalupe River?

My forty-five years of traveling past this Hill Country real estate were initially rewarded with the pleasantness of a cattle pasture, then an apple orchard, followed by a vegetable farm and finally today’s open field. On one memorable drive past the site my preschooler excitedly pointed to a grove of trees along the fence line, “Look, Mamma, look, the man painted his tree red.” Fall colors flourished but one hackberry dominated with every leaf a brilliant red.

Now we learn that a quarry will emerge behind the fence. New mysteries await answers. How will adjacent homeowners adjust to the deafening heavy equipment noises? Will the mine operate around the clock, on weekends and holidays? How much dust will this mining endeavor add to the air? Four established gravel mines located within a mile and a half radius have poor records of dust control. Will anyone monitor the increasing concentration of dust and its effects upon asthmatics, the elderly and immature lungs of school children? Two of these mining operations, as well as the new quarry, are owned by Martin Marietta of the Lockheed Martin conglomerate. Can we expect better citizenship with their move into this populated area?

Where will the huge amounts of water required for gravel washing come from? Will anyone know the kind or amount of contaminants carried in the site’s runoff into the river, i.e. machinery oils, gas, chemicals and water from their washing operations? Will highway safety be compromised as gravel trucks rumble through the gate on this narrow stretch of Highway 27, especially motorists traveling eastward and descending the hill at the fence’s origin?

Landscaping and berms are planned to buffer the quarry activity from highway traffic. Does this mean our grandchildren’s only view will be from Google Earth? Will they see an extending moonscape of quarries which already dominate this section of the innocent Guadalupe? Will Martin Marietta restore the open pit when mining is complete? They do so in other states where remediation is mandated.

Where do we go for answers?

Frances Lovett

Comments

​ Kerr County's Bridge to NOWHERE




Kerr County Conscience has learned of another old Kerr County bridge scheduled for replacement. This low water crossing at the Guadalupe and Ehler Lane actually goes to nowhere. The road sign on East Highway 27 warns of "no outlet". After crossing the bridge there is a turnaround in a dirt field with a closed ranch gate and a distant house in site.
DSC02767
The bridge is in Texas Department of Transportation plans and funding has been completed. Total cost of this one bridge replacement is $804,727.76. Engineers have already spent $44,881.80 on the project. Because this is a traditionally funded bridge the county pays a portion of the cost. State funded road projects originate at the local level with your elected county commissioner, in this case Jonathan Letz, Precinct 3. Do not blame TxDOT for this questionable expenditure, they will not proceed with any project not requested by the responsible commissioner and approved by the commissioner's court. TxDOT depends on elected County Commissioners to inform their constituents and hold public hearings to secure public opinion prior to beginning any project. How many voters in Precinct 3 have heard about the bridge replacement on Ehler Lane? How many county resident's had an opportunity to offer their opinion?

Yes, your county property taxes are going toward replacement of this bridge.


Ehler Lane

Is this the best use of your tax dollars? Could this bridge replacement have been delayed while Commissioner Letz was posturing over expenditures for EMS/Fire protection and opposing library funding? Who will benefit from this bridge to nowhere? You can offer your opinion to TxDOT at http://www.txdot.gov/contact_us/form/ and the Kerr County Commissioner's Court at commissioners@co.kerr.tx.us.


F. Lovett
KCC
Comments

Open Letter to Kerrville Daily Times

Mr. Armstrong,


Thank you and the KDT for your continued coverage of water issues. I hope you will be able to correct a statement in yesterday's edition. Specifically, "restrictions imposed by the state on how much water the city can pull from the Guadalupe River have curtailed the city's safe operating capacity". Actually, there is almost no water in the Guadalupe River to pull. TCEQ only requires the city to maintain the same river flow out of Town Lake that flows into the lake during periods of low flow. During periods of above normal flow the city is required to simply maintain normal flow over the dam. There has been very little flow into Town Lake for months and the TCEQ cannot produce additional river water. The city of Kerrville has free access to all the water in Town Lake they simply must assure that the same amount flows over the dam as flows into the lake.

You should be aware that Charlie Hastings, Director of Public Works, has blamed the TCEQ's watermaster program for Kerrville water restrictions in previous years by promoting the idea that the city is being punished. Your article implies that untruth is being promoted again. The TCEQ (state) does not dictate anything beyond assuring the river continues to flow. I hope you will take a critical look at the facts surrounding river pumping and provide a factual analysis to your readers.

The Kerr County Conscience website provides historical data from the USGS gauges located along the river in Kerr County. I believe a brief check of this data is invaluable to understanding that our current river water situation is indeed a crisis which we cannot blame on the state. Click here to view this data.

Frances Lovett

East Kerr County

Comments

WILL GROWTH AFFECT OUR WATER?

By: Mike Mecke, Kerrville

Natural Resource Manager & Water Specialist – Retired


YES! It seems the destiny of Texas is to grow. We are exploding in population from within, from out-of-state – all together it is a very serious picture. Texas, for the most part, has limited water resources. Much of the growth is occurring along or west of I-35/I-37, which is a region known for frequent and often severe droughts. The semi-arid Central Texas’ Hill Country is where vegetation and climate from the East meets plants and climate from the West and the deserts beyond. And now, where old, largely German or just pioneer-settled towns meets tens of thousands of new comers…… us!

A high percentage of our new Hill Country newcomers came here from wetter regions or out of state. At least, that seems to be true in Kerr, Kendall and Gillespie Counties. Many of our younger or new Texans did not endure the Drought of the Fifties, as many older residents did. That intense seven to ten year drought (depending upon where you lived) was a character builder and a severe trial especially for Texas farmers and ranchers. Some turned to new irrigation afterwards. Many did not make it. You must read our Texas “bible” for those times by the late, great Elmer Kelton “The Time it Never Rained”. Elmer was at his best in that absorbing fifties novel of a family and a boy growing up and existing on a Texas ranch at that time. He makes you feel that hot, dusty drought and see the social conditions - they endure in your mind!

Growth and expanding population, home building and new businesses seem to be the main goals of most city officials, councils and the development community. That viral disease has seized even small town Texas and the Hill Country seems to be a major target area due to its beauty, climate, many rivers, springs and convenient location to major cities. We seem to be in the process of sometimes killing or destroying what we came here to enjoy and appreciate in these quaint small towns with their clear rivers, history and peaceful rural life.

The Hill Country and many areas of Texas cannot handle a lot of growth simply because there are not the water supplies to support higher populations, especially during prolonged, severe drought. Many new residents now want their homes and towns to resemble “back home” with large lush green landscapes, parks and golf courses. Years ago, water was not an issue in most cities and towns. Now it is!

There is little or no understanding of a term that is familiar to ranchers called“carrying capacity”. On a ranch or in a pasture, it means the numbers of animals, including livestock, deer and exotics, which can be maintained without damaging the desired rangeland vegetation. In good years and in drought these numbers will be managed to fit
the conditions. It is always limited by the production of desired forage and by rainfall.

2.
Mecke – Growth & Water


Personally, I think towns, cities, counties and regions also have a sustainable carrying capacity for people. Water is the limiting factor usually. There is a practical and ethical limit to how much water we can beg, borrow, buy or steal from adjoining neighbors without damaging either them or the environment. These issues are now facing Texans from Amarillo to the Rio Grande Valley and from El Paso east to Dallas, San Antonio or Houston.

Many areas of the state are now beginning to realize that our groundwater – aquifers– do not exist on county lines, so geographic groups of counties utilizing the same aquifers are forming Groundwater Management Areas (GMA’s). In Kerr, we are in GMA-9. This is an improvement in groundwater management and protection as people then work together to arrive at plans for water pumping and to derive a view of what they want their aquifer to look like in the distant future……maybe: the same as now, or wells averaging 20 ft. lower, or other standards? It is causing some heartburn for people in neighboring counties or towns with differing goals for their groundwater and their area’s growth. Some of us live in small towns because we like small towns. Others may want unlimited growth or financial rewards and would be happy to see a big city grow up in our Hill Country.

Too much well pumping affects groundwater levels and spring flows. This can be a disaster for our springs, creeks and rivers - especially in a long drought. All Hill Country streams arise from springs. Downstream bays and estuaries would suffer from reduced freshwater flow and nutrients. It is all connected isn’t it?

Excessive growth is becoming more and more important across the state as we continue to grow in often poorly planned or not well organized developments and communities. Get involved locally in water meetings. Texas needs to have smart growth. Water is NOT like any other “commodity” as there is no substitute!

Truly, Water is Life!

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A QUARRY NEIGHBOR'S QUANDARY

A Sunday morning drive along Center Point’s River Road ain’t what it used to be.


The drive from east to west still begins beneath the stunningly beautiful canopy of old pecans, oaks, elm and cypress. The undergrowth opens up in a few places to give the driver a few peeks at the Guadalupe River—just teasers leaving you wishing for more. Trouble is, the bigger view opening up on the other side of the road is a quarry neighbor’s nightmare. Thistles, thistles, thistles. Everywhere, musk thistles.

And what have our neighbors, the gravel quarries, done to stop the explosive proliferation of these awful weeds?

Martin Marietta Aggregates has made no attempt to control thistle growth on their property that adjoins River Road and Sutherland Lane. White seeds are drifting in the wind to all parts of the county. And beyond.

Drymala Quarry seems to be mounting a late poisoning of their thistle forest on Sutherland Road. Probably a high-powered chemical since Roundup® won’t kill thistles that are that tall. This quarry neighbor guesses they have a license to purchase those potent, federally regulated chemicals in large quantities, since Drymala obviously used a lot of whatever noxious chemical it is.

Do the quarries’ neighbors have a right to know what chemical compound Drymala has sprayed?

The runoff from whatever they are, those herbicides or herbicide, seeps directly into the river and is undoubtedly detrimental to the downstream neighbors as well as to fish and to river plants.

Could there have been some drift onto neighbor’s property or onto the roadway as they sprayed…?

Let us return to our tour.

Take a turn back onto River Road and you see the backside of Drymala’s quarry.

Oh, no!

While county crews have mowed their side of the fence, the right-of-way, the quarry’s neglect presents a stark contrast.

Musk thistles run amuck on this part of Drymala land.

A monumental travesty will undoubtedly unfold next spring. These thistle seeds are already drifting across River Road. They drift, spreading hundreds of thousands of seeds, each one eager to bloom into a tall stalk of sharp thorns. Thorns that injure livestock and wildlife, while ruining the land, be it recreational, agricultural, or residential.

I see the wedge of ground that has been scrapped and gouged into an ATV-motocross facility. All the vegetation has been removed from the surface, leaving bare dirt. Prime river bottom dirt.

Can a thistle seed ask for more?

I know there is relief ahead. I am almost to TEXAS MONTHLY Magazine’s #3 swimming hole in Texas, the Brinks-Reese-Guadalupe crossing. But there’s no relief for me. This popular recreational spot, a haven for man since the days of the Native Americans, has not been spared. Musk-thistle seeds have made their way to the riverbank.

Thankfully, those weeds have not germinated in huge numbers. Not yet. Were they seeded from the unattended quarry berms a few feet above the river?

A return to Highway 27 is encouraging. Martin Marietta has removed thistles along this heavily traveled roadway. Well, maybe not so encouraging. Neighbors wonder why this international corporation controls the musk thistle at their high profile front fence that runs alongside the highway, but ignores the infestation beyond the view of Highway 27 motorists.

Then there is Wheatcraft, situated on the river bank.

Neighbors suspected the berms along Highway 27 were strategically located to hide the dismal reality inside the pits. These berms have now become a seedbed for the musk thistle. Wheatcraft Materials Incorporated has also made a sloppy attempt at control with herbicides.

Do neighbors have a right to expect more appropriate thistle control, given the high risk of chemicals soaking into the soil, the river’s alluvial system and the main river stream?

Quarry neighbors also suffer from unattended quarry thistles, and nearby farmers and ranchers lose the productivity of their land, since these weeds aren’t suitable as agricultural feed and they are sharp and tall, poising injury to livestock and wildlife.

Removal is impossible with the annual seeding from the quarries as well as the seed bank lying dormant from previous years. Any method of control is labor intensive, time consuming, expensive and frustrating. Neighbors can attempt to pop a few out of the ground but this is impossible when faced with a blooming bumper crop. Do we spray and kill everything in site? Do we mow and destroy the wildflower seed bank forever? Unfortunately, the musk thistle blooms and seeds in sync with our native wildflowers.

The quarries are not operating on this Sunday but thistle seeds are still blowing in the wind, soon to land and germinate.

Wouldn’t it all be better, if gravel quarry owners would simply make concerted efforts to control thistles on their property, before they morph from seeds to weeds?

~Frances Lovett

Comments

Kerr County Conscience Meeting, April 21, 2010


Please join us for coffee and dessert, as we enjoy good interaction between folks who are concerned about…
· Protecting our property and families from the adverse affects of runaway development…
· The lowering of single family, private property values…
· Stopping unwise floodplain management that jeopardizes lives and property…
· Preserving rural character…
· Stopping the downward spiral in our Kerr County quality of life.
Our meeting is set for:
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 American Legion Hall, Center Point 7:00 p.m.

Please pass the word about the meeting to interested individuals. Thanks!

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